Social Justice and Social Theory

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					                            Social Justice and Social Theory

RLE 701r: Ethics Seminar                                              J. Gunnemann
Graduate Division of Religion                                         308 Bishops Hall
Fall, 2005                                                            7-4162

We will read selected contemporary theories of justice, beginning with the revised edition
(1999, first published in 1971) of John Rawls's A Theory of Justice, a re-interpretation of
the social contract tradition; then looking at a variety of alternative perspectives and
critiques: communitarian, neo-Aristotelian, critical theory, and various feminist critiques.
Several perennial issues and questions will guide our inquiry:

1. How is justice related to good and to problems connected to conceptions of good,
   such as personal identity and social integration?
2. How is the problem of justice (and its solution) conceived in relation to the
   purportedly unique problems of “modern” and “post-modern” societies, including its
   plurality of ends, institutional differentiation, and increased rationality?
3. How, and on what grounds, can principles of justice be grounded or justified? A
   related question: How is justice related to problems of legitimacy in modern society?
   (And, Why are these two questions related?)
4. Which social theories (interpreting modern, or “post-modern,” society) are drawn
   upon by the different accounts of justice, making them intelligible and explaining
   their differences? Every theory of justice draws on one or more social theoretical
   traditions which offer specific characterizations of the problematic aspects of the
   modern world (including the problems of good, identity formation, social integration,
   the meaning of freedom, and more) as well as characterizations of human nature
   (moral anthropology). The different social theories often account for many of the
   normative differences.
5. What theological critique can be offered of a given theory? Are any of the theories
   usable by or instructive for theological ethics? Does or must theology modify or add
   something to them? Can these theories stand without theological or quasi-theological

Since we are reading no theological works, the theological issues and questions must be
brought to the seminar discussion by the participants. We will all have different
backgrounds here, depending on theological persuasion and training. The purpose is not
to bring in theological perspectives as authority, nor to find theological answers for
difficult questions, but to come to see and articulate as clearly as possible how theories of
justice may (or may not) intersect with theological questions. A list of critical formal
questions about theological ethics and theories of justice will be distributed to the
seminar to provoke further thought, but you should not be bound by these.


(1) Critical preparation of reading and active, collegial seminar participation.

(2) One (possibly two, depending on enrollment) critical seminar paper, about 10 pages
    in length, to initiate discussion of the reading for a chosen seminar session (See
    “Note” below). Copies of these papers should be made available for each member of
    the seminar by e-mail attachment by 9 a.m. on the day of the presentation. All
    members of the seminar should read this paper carefully prior to the Wednesday
    seminar and be prepared to engage in critical discussion of it with the presenter.

(3) A term paper on a topic, chosen in consultation with me, about 20 pages in length,
    due Friday, December 16, 9 a.m. The paper may, but need not, build on your seminar
    papers; and should involve reading in primary and secondary sources beyond the
    required reading.


Items listed under "Further Reading" are intended as a partial bibliography of related
readings. Some expand on arguments in the Required Reading; others offer critical
perspective on the reading. It will not be possible for you to do all this supplementary
reading but the presenter of a paper for a given session will find it helpful to look into
some of this reading. The additional citations may also guide you in your work beyond
the seminar as well as in the preparation of term papers as you dig more deeply into an
issue. I will be happy to help you choose among these in relation to specific issues, or to
suggest other reading. The required books are available in Cokesbury Bookstore. Some
reading may be distributed in photocopy.

Note on seminar papers:

A “critical introduction” means an attempt to understand a text or an author by finding
and articulating important underlying assumptions of an argument, or the underlying
structures that make the argument intelligible. For a paper intended to initiate seminar
discussion this would likely entail: (1) providing a brief overview or statement that
characterizes the purpose, central themes, and over-arching argument of the reading (but
not a summary); (2) taking up one or more of these themes, or a central point in the
argument, and examining it critically (in light of other aspects of the work or of questions
brought to the text) in order to articulate the underlying assumptions of an argument; and
(3) posing some questions about the assumptions and arguments to focus the seminar’s

Note: I learned at the end of the summer that Habermas’s Communication and the
Evolution of Society is out of print. Consquently, I am rethinking the reading for all
seminars beginning Nov. 8, including the very last sessions, and will provide a revised
schedule of seminars and reading several weeks before that time.


Sept. 6      Introduction: The meaning(s) of justice; background to the modern
             problem of justice and to Rawls; overview of discussions of justice since
             Rawls; discussion of the relation among secular theories of justice,
             religion, and theological inquiry.

A. Liberalism and the Revival of the Social Contract Tradition: John Rawls

Sept. 13     Read: Rawls, A Theory of Justice, Part One, Theory (3-168 and both
             “Prefaces”). Note in the Preface to the Rev. Ed. where he says he has
             made changes, and mark them in your text. We will want to examine
             some of these.

             For further reading:
             - Rawls, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (JFR), 1-134.
             - Rawls, “Justice As Fairness,” in Collected Papers (hereafter, CP), 47-
                72 (Philosophical Review, 1958).
             - “Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical,” CP, 388-414
             - Rawls, “Constitutional Liberty and the Concept of Justice” (1963), CP,
             - Rawls, “The Sense of Justice” (1963), 96-116.
             - Rawls, “Distributive Justice” (1967), CP, 130-153.
             - Rawls, “A Kantian Sense of Equality,” CP, 254-255.
             - Rawls, “Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory,” CP, 303-358
                (Journal of Philosophy 77, 1980, 515-72).

Sept. 20     Read: Rawls, TJ, Part Two: Institutions

             For further reading:
             - Rawls, JFR, 135-179
             - Rawls, “Two Concepts of Rules,” CP, 20-46 (Philosophical Review
                LXIV, 1955, 3-32).
             - Rawls, “The Justification of Civil Disobedience” (1969), CP, 176-189.

Sept. 27     Read: Rawls, TJ, Part Three: Ends

             For further reading:
             - “Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical,” CP, 388-414
             - (Philosophy and Public Affairs 14/3, Summer, 1985, 223-251).
             - “The Idea of an Overlapping Consensus,” CP, 421-448 (Oxford
                Journal of Legal Studies, 7.1, 1987, pp. 1-25).
             - “The Priority of Right and Ideas of the Good,” CP, 449-472
                (Philosophy and Public Affairs, 17.4, 1988, 251-76).

                 “The Domain of the Political and Overlapping Consensus,” CP, 473-
                 496 (New York University Law Review 64.2, 1989, 233-55).

B. Communitarianism: Michael Walzer

Oct. 4       Read: Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice, chs. 1-10 (1-4 are
             fundamental; 5-10 exemplify and extend the analysis—read accordingly).

             For Further Reading:
             - Walzer, Interpretation and Social Criticism

Oct. 11      FALL BREAK

Oct. 18      Read:
             - Walzer, Spheres of Justice, chs. 11-13.
             - Walzer, “The Communitarian Critique of Liberalism,” Political
                Theory 18.1 (February, 1990), 6-23.

             For Further Reading:
             - Articles by T. Roberts, E. Bounds, M. Walzer, in The Journal of
                Religious Ethics, 22.2.

C. Feminist Critique I

Oct. 25      Read:    Susan Moller Okin, Justice, Gender, and the Family

             For Further Reading:
             - Okin, “Political Liberalism, Justice, and Gender,” Ethics 105.1
                (October, 1994), 23-43.
             - Rawls, JFR, 162-8 (on family and Okin)

D. Neo-Aristotelianism: MacIntyre on Tradition, Rationality, and Justice

Nov. 1       Read:    Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?

             This is a big book, but its basic argument is presented in a few chapters,
             esp. I and XVII-XX. Read these carefully, skimming much of the rest,
             dipping in more deeply at ch. II on Homer in order to get a sense of how
             MacIntyre thinks about virtue, tradition, and the nature of rationality; VII-
             VIII on Aristotle, central to his thought; X-XII on Aquinas, also
             important; and XV-XVI to figure out what went wrong in Hume. My
             suggestion is that you read these middle chapters after you have read
             beginning and end. If MacIntyre's thought is new to you, you may want to

             look at portions of his After Virtue, esp. chs. 1-2, 5, and 14-20. In these
             sections MacIntyre develops his argument that virtue is central to
             morality, connects virtue to “practices” (which he wants to distinguish
             from institutions), and offers a very important and influential account of
             the difference between “internal” and “external” goods.

             For further reading:
             - MacIntyre, After Virtue
             - MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry

E. Critical Theory: Jürgen Habermas

NOTE: All reading below to be revised.

Nov. 8       Lecture on transition to Critical Theory: The Marxist legacy, the
             “dissolution of Marxism,” the “School of Social Research” (“Frankfurt
             School”), and Habermas’s early work.

             - Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society (CES), 178-
                205 (“Legitimation Problems in the Modern State”)
             - Stephen White, The Recent Work of Jürgen Habermas, 1-6

             For further reading:
             - David Held, Introduction to Critical Theory, esp. 249-350

Nov. 15      Habermas’s “reconstructive” method and his theory of the evolution of

             - Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society (hereafter
                CES), chs. 3 and 4.
             - If you have time, look at the first and last chapters of The Structural
                Transformation of the Public Sphere.

             For Further Reading:
             - Steven White, The Recent Work of Jürgen Habermas.
             - Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, esp.
                chs. I-II; VI-VII.
             - “Technical Progress and Social Life World,” and “Technology and
                Science as Ideology,” in Toward a Rational Society, chs. 4-6.

Nov. 22      Habermas's Universal Pragmatics and Communicative Ethics (“Discourse

             Read (concentrate on first two—see note next page):
             - Habermas, On the Pragmatics of Communication, chs. 1-2: “What is
                Universal Pragmatics?” and “Social Action, Purposive Activity, and
                Communication.” (The editor’s Introduction is also helpful.)

             For Further Reading:
             - Stephen White, Recent Work…, chs. 3-4.
             - Habermas, “Discourse Ethics: Notes on a Program of Philosophical
                Justification,” in Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action
                (MCCA) 43-115.
             - Habermas, “Remarks on Discourse Ethics,” Justification and
                Application, 19-111
             - Habermas, “On Systematically Distorted Communication” and
                “Towards a Theory of Communicative Competence,” Inquiry 13,
             - “Moral Development and Ego Identity,” CES, 69-94.
             - S. Benhabib and F. Dallmayr, eds., The Communicative Ethics

Nov. 29      System and Lifeworld; Intersubjective reason and Moral Formation in a
             Post-modern world

             There will be a mini-lecture on “system and lifeworld” with some

             - Habermas, Postmetaphysical Thinking, chs. 6-7
             - Habermas, “Communicative vs. Subject-Centered Reason,” The
                Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (PDM), ch. XI (handout)

             For Further Reading:
             - Habermas, PDM, ch. XII and other chapters in same volume.
             - Jay M. Bernstein, “The Causality of Fate: Modernity and Modernism
                in Habermas” in M. P. d’Entreves and S. Benhabib, eds., Habermas
                and the Unfinished Project of Modernity, ch. 9.
             - David Ingram, “The Subject of Justice in Postmodern Discourse” in
                M. P. d’Entreves and S. Benhabib, eds., Habermas and the Unfinished
                Project of Modernity, ch. 10.

E. Feminism and Critical Theory

Dec. 6       Read: (note: readings here open to suggestion and negotiation)
             - Nancy Fraser, Justice Interruptus, chs. 3, 6

          -   Diana Coole, “Habermas and the Question of Alterity” in M. P.
              d’Entreves and S. Benhabib, eds., Habermas and the Unfinished
              Project of Modernity, ch. 8.
          -   Sels. from Johanna Meehan, ed., Feminists Read Habermas

          For Further Reading:
          - Nancy Fraser, Unruly Practices, ch. 6.
          - Seyla Benhabib, Situating the Self
          - Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference

Dec. 13   Open (we can take on a topic of the seminar’s choice or simply use the
          time for review)


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